Thursday, March 31, 2011
We're honored to have Lyn here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, she reviews Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Scholastic, 2011).
"Reedy, who spent a year in western Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, engages all five senses in describing a setting he knows well. The story begins slowly as the author builds Zulaikha’s world, but Reedy rewards patient readers with fully realized characters rooted in their land and way of life. The immediate and extended family present a large number of characters who could easily blend together, but Reedy succeeds in distinguishing them through a combination of precise physical description, well-drawn personality characteristics, and location within the family and community dynamics. The principal characters—Zulaikha, her immediate family, and the female American officer—go beyond stereotypes in ways that are surprising and revealing; readers are treated to an intimate view of cultural conflicts, changing gender roles, and a society in transition.
"As the United States commits to a military operation under the 'responsibility to protect' doctrine, Reedy’s remarkable novel shows U.S. forces acting for the benefit of a community. At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from depicting the cultural conflicts and other perils inherent in this approach. Female officers behave in ways that shock the local population, expectations give way to disappointment, and buried resentments threaten to explode into violence. Regardless of one’s view of the current action in Libya or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Words in the Dust offers a concrete, emotionally powerful portrait of one girl, one family, and one community that sheds light on many others." -Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Stay tuned for Stephanie's reports of Seattle book events! Today, she shares a book review of Hush by Eishes Chayil:
"Gittel Chava Klein is the beloved daughter of caring parents, has good friends, and loves her life. So why, at seventeen, is she haunted by memories of her best friend, Devory, who died in the fourth grade?
"Gittel’s tightly-knit religious community has managed to create a social enclave within the bustling world of Brooklyn: inside her neighborhood, the internet does not exist; only Jewish newspapers are read; and everyone wears the same style of clothing that their great-grandparents wore. Boys and girls are educated for their respective roles as Torah scholars or housewives and teachers; and no one knows anything about sex until the week before their arranged marriages.
"Love, respect, and loyalty thrive in this community—but that very loyalty can cause people to protect secrets that should not be kept. As Gittel approaches marriage age, fragments of recollection come together, and she begins to question the facile explanations of her friend’s death offered by her parents and other community members. The more those around her try to 'hush' her questions, the more frantic Gittel becomes to discover the truth—and to make it known. But at what cost? Will any young man want to join lives with a trouble-maker?
"Part mystery, part memoir, and part drama, HUSH is a heart-wrenching and inspiring look at the price paid when communities hide dangerous secrets. The author, a Hasidic Jewish woman, has chosen to write under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil—in Hebrew, a woman of valor. (In the novel, the term is used to pressure Gittel to stop asking questions about her friend’s death.) Chayil opens doors to think about the many groups that have silenced voices to protect themselves from scandal, and the urge in all of us to “look away” from things that cause us discomfort or shame. Written in lyrical prose, with a tight and riveting plot, HUSH is a call for attention to a painful issue, written by a woman who refuses to keep silent—a woman of valor."
Monday, March 28, 2011
Happy Monday and welcome to another Featured Title that perfectly exemplifies this month's theme, Risk-taking: True Grit by Charles Portis.
This cult favorite novel has had a resurgence of popularity of late, due to the equally-riveting Coen brothers' remake of the movie of the same name. In case you've managed to miss both the book and the movie, here's the synopsis via Amazon:
True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross, who is just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robs him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash money. Mattie leaves home to avenge her father's blood. With the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshal, by her side, Mattie pursues the homicide into Indian Territory.
True Grit is eccentric, cool, straight, and unflinching, like Mattie herself.
The Wall Street Journal had this to say about the book:
"Charles Portis details the savagery of the 1870s frontier through an astonishing narrative voice: that of the 14-year-old Mattie Ross, a flinty, skeptical, Bible-thumping scourge."
If you haven't guessed by now, Mattie would have fit right in among the readergirlz - she's a fearless character who faces risk and danger without flinching, even when men twice her size - not to mention her age - falter.
Now, we divas would never suggest watching the movie instead of reading the book, but it's nice to have more than one mode of storytelling to compare, contrast, and enhance our experience of a work. Here's a clip of Hailee Steinfeld taking about the character of Mattie.
Enjoy! And tell us about some of your favorite books-to-movies featuring kick-butt, risk-taking female characters!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
"I didn’t think about a cover until after the book was done because frankly I didn’t think I’d see it published. It’s dark, which is a good thing, but it’s told in second-person and every author knows that that is simply not done. It was only when Harper Teen bought the rights that I allowed myself to imagine a cover. The first idea I had was along the lines of the cover for Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (below) – clean, white, in a lower case Helvetica-esque font. But the more I thought about the book, the darker my imaginary cover became until it was all black with a white typeface font.
"In addition to writing novels, I work as a Senior Copywriter and Producer for Dixon Schwabl, an ad agency in Rochester, NY. Every day I participate in brainstorming sessions as the art directors work to come up with visuals for the various campaigns. I’m smart enough to restrict myself to high level suggestions and let the visual experts take the lead. I did the same with my cover ideas for You. I told them I saw something dark and text-driven – no cover image, just a few simple words to mirror the simplicity of the title..."
Read the rest of Charles's Cover Story at bn.com's Unabashedly Bookish.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
This month we're talking Risk-taking on the blog, and today we're lucky enough to have Adele Griffin, author of the amazing Julian Game, with us.
(*Side note - that blue wig Raye wears is amazing - I'm thinking future Halloween costume, for sure.)
If you haven't read this book yet, move it to the top of your pile! Don't believe me? Here's what Booklist has to say about Julian:
"Raye Archer is warily thrilled when Ella, queen bee at her tony new school, enlists her to seek revenge against gorgeous heartbreaker Julian. With pictures of Raye in a blue wig and slinky top, they create a fictitious online profile (so different from Raye’s low-key, real-life persona); lure Julian into a relationship; and act out Ella’s vindictive schemes. The results are predictable: in online chats, Raye falls for Julian, confesses their deceit, and faces Ella’s full-force campaign of vitriolic harassment. Griffin elevates the mean-girl plot with spot-on insights into teen social politics and quirky, multidimensional characters, including troubled, OCD Ella... [Her] timely cautionary messages about online communication, including its permanence (“One stupid picture could swing back around and punch me when I’m 30 years old”), are never too heavy-handed, and her themes about the appeal of reinventing oneself, the frightening power of manipulation, the futility of revenge, and the true meaning of friendship are timeless."
I'm so excited to have Adele blogging with us today!
Forgive Me Not: Confessions of a Semi-Apologist
I’ve got a problem with sorry. I use it too much. If someone elbows me in the CVS: “Oh, gosh—sorry!” If I need directions: “I’m sorry to ask, but which way is Brooklyn?” If there’s a problem with my entrée: “So sorry, there seems to be a dead rat in this Bolognese.”
Sunday, March 20, 2011
"For this cover, I always envisioned a bleak, menacing vision of the wasteland known as the Scorch, which is exactly what it ended up being. My publisher wanted to design a cover before I’d even turned in the first draft, so my editor asked me for a detailed description of what I think the cover scene should look like. I wrote about a paragraph or so for the artist, Philip Straub, and he did that scene that ended up on the cover...
Read the rest of James's Cover Story at Unabashedly Bookish, on bn.com.
Friday, March 18, 2011
From the publisher: Julia just graduated as her high school valedictorian, has a full ride to college in the fall and a coveted summer internship clerking for a federal judge. But when her older sister, Sophie, shows up at the graduation determined to reveal some long buried secrets, Julia's carefully constructed plans come to a halt. Instead of the summer she had painstakingly laid out, Julia follows Sophie back to Vermont, where Sophie is opening a bakery—and struggling with some secrets of her own. What follows is a summer of revelations—some heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and all slowly pointing Julia toward a new understanding of both herself and of the sister she never really knew.
"I could relate to Julia really well. I have always been the overachieving sister who tends to be less dramatic and always wondering about who exactly my sisters are and also if what I am doing is right. Sophie was also amazing and I loved her strength. I could feel their emotions and fears about what was happening. The plot of this book was really entertaining and exciting. I liked that their were a ton of secrets within the book that kept me engrossed. I found this contemporary book to be very enjoyable..." --Sarah
Thursday, March 17, 2011
"I didn't have a specific image in mind for the cover, but I knew in my soul that I wanted the book to be in russet, sunset colors. The main character, Amelia, can see the future, but only at sunset--and the book is full of loving descriptions of that time of day.
"My editor, Julie, sent me a note one Thursday afternoon and asked for a detailed description of Amelia, the main character. She told me that the design department was scheduled to start my cover the next day.
"She didn't ask for any particular input beyond that. But I come from a filmmaking background, where we make contact sheets for everything from paint colors, to car styles, to actors. So I put together this contact sheet and forwarded it with my notes.
"When I wrote the book, I'd had Malese Jow in my mind as Amelia (I loved her as Anna on The Vampire Diaries) and I'd taken all the clothing directly out of Harper's Bazar, circa 1881-1889. Lucky for me, costume designers do the same thing. The exact gown that Amelia wears in my book is the same pattern that costume designer Janet Patterson used when dressing the cast of Portrait of a Lady. And of course, everything in sunset colors, because that's how I saw the book.
"The first time I saw the cover, I cried! Because what I saw first was the concept art for the cover..."
Read the rest of Saundra's Cover Story (and see the three versions of the cover) at melissacwalker.com.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In Harmonic Feedback, Drea reaches out to Justin even though she's afraid that, when he gets to know her and learns the truth about her diagnosis, he'll reject her for not being "normal." I think this is something we can all relate to, "normal" or not (and what does "normal" mean, anyway?!), which is why it's so satisfying to see Drea challenge herself and learn to make connections.
So, readergirlz, what we want to know is: what's the biggest risk you've ever taken for love?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Today, Olivia reviews The Lying Game, by Sara Shepard (which will soon be a show on ABC Family, too!):
"In The Lying Game, the author of the Pretty Little Liars series, Sara Shepard, presents the classic long-lost identical twin premise—but with an interesting twist.
"The story is told through the perspective of Sutton Mercer, a 17-year-old girl who exists as a spirit and believes that she has been murdered but doesn’t remember many of the details of her life or her death.
"Sutton watches as Emma, a 17-year-old girl who has been in foster care all her life and looks exactly like her, discovers Sutton’s Facebook page. Emma’s foster brother had shown her a video of Sutton on the internet, and Emma noticed their likeness and immediately believes that Sutton is her long-lost sister. Emma sends Sutton a message, and Sutton responds quickly, inviting Emma to come visit her in Arizona—even though the real Sutton is no longer alive.
"The story unfolds as Emma goes to Arizona to visit Sutton. Expecting an emotional reunion with her sister, she is shocked to discover that Sutton’s family and friends believe that she is Sutton, and she is easily able to take Sutton’s place as Sutton herself is missing. At first, Emma expects Sutton to return, but eventually she realizes that something might have actually happened to Sutton—especially after she starts finding notes and getting text messages telling her that Sutton is dead—and that she will be next if she doesn’t “keep playing along” and pretend to be Sutton.
"While Sutton appears to have lived a charmed life of wealth and luxury, surrounded by beautiful and popular friends, as Emma gets deeper and deeper into Sutton’s life she discovers that everything was not as it seemed. Sutton was obviously the 'queen bee,' the leader of her clique of friends, and adored by many. However, she made a lot of enemies along the way, too—especially because of her infamous contest with her friends called 'the lying game.'
"As Emma puts together more and more pieces of the puzzle that is Sutton’s life, Sutton begins to regain memories as well, though she is still generally unclear about who her murderer might be. Emma and Sutton are both simultaneously solving Sutton’s murder, and the reader is able to attempt to solve the mystery as well, and is presented with many different suspects and pieces of evidence that could incriminate them throughout the book.
"While the book did not have a conclusive ending (much like many of the Pretty Little Liars books), the reader isn’t left with a complete cliffhanger and the next book in the series, Never Have I Ever, will be published in August 2011.
"Like Shepard’s other novels, The Lying Game is fast-paced and exciting. While Shepard does give the basic information necessary to understand the story, she doesn’t reveal some of the incidences or characters that are brought up throughout the book, as Sutton herself does not remember these parts of her life. Some of these smaller mysteries are resolved through Emma’s investigations, but others are left unsolved, presumably for later books in the series.
"Also, while it would have been easy for The Lying Game to fall into many of the predictable teen-novel stereotypes (such as 'long-lost-siblings' or 'mean girl clique'), the novel is actually very refreshing and original, partially because of the mystery and suspense aspect of it.
"I would recommend The Lying Game to anyone who enjoyed the Pretty Little Liars series, or anyone who wants something more than a surface-level young adult novel. While I won’t claim that I was especially enlightened or enriched after reading it, it was a real 'page-turner' and kept me entertained." --Olivia
Monday, March 14, 2011
Today, we're featuring Tara Kelly's pitch-perfect (pun fully intended) Harmonic Feedback.
"Since early childhood, Drea has received diagnoses that vary from ADHD to mild Asperger's syndrome. “All I know is I make sense to me—it's other people who seem complicated,” she says. Yet after she and her single mom move from San Francisco to Bellingham, Washington, to live with Drea's cranky grandmother, Drea, a talented musician and aspiring “sound designer” who “had never even felt what could be considered a crush,” forms a band with wild, purple-haired Naomi and fellow new kid Justin, with whom she begins her first romance. Without overexplanation, debut novelist Kelly offers readers a strong, authentic sense of Drea's inner life and daily struggles."
I loved this book, and how authentically and sensitively Drea's character is portrayed. Despite her "condition" (which is never fully clarified, which I suspect is deliberate), she's relatable to all readers, and her willingness to open herself up despite fear of rejection is very inspiring. This month's theme is Risk-taking, and it seems to me, as a writer, that writing about a character with any form of disability is inherently risky; one fears that the book will become "about" the disability rather than the character.
Can you think of another book that takes risks with a physically or emotionally challenged protagonist, successfully?
Sunday, March 13, 2011
"I don't think I had much input for the Kiss in Time hardcover. I was pleased with the color scheme and general look, but I thought it was a bit bland. I've seen other covers by this designer, such as Fairest (below right) and Princess Ben, and they always have a little something more to them than just a girl in a pretty dress. It was obvious that the cover was 'set' when I saw it. It was a photograph, and they'd spent weeks going through dozens of photos to find the perfect one -- it was shot specifically for the book. I liked the colors and the font.
"The girl does look like Talia in my book, and the dress is important in the story and is as I portrayed it, the same color as the girl's eyes. But I was a bit disappointed that you couldn't tell it was Sleeping Beauty, as you can easily tell that Fairest is Snow White. That said, it has been a successful hardcover. I do think the cover art has caused it to be mostly overlooked by the young-adult library community, because it makes it look like a younger book. However, bookstore sales have made up for that. It is so pretty that you want to pick it up...."
Friday, March 11, 2011
Today, Sarah reviews I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore:
"I didn't hate or love these main character. John was a likable character, but I never connected to him. Sarah was a sweet character, but I didn't feel that I really know her at all, other then the fact that she loved him. Their romance was cute, but I didn't really see anything between them. Sam was a great sidekick and I loved how nerdy he was. I wish that there had been my character development. The plot was very slow to begin with, but the climax was rather awesome..." --Sarah
Thursday, March 10, 2011
This month's theme at readergirlz is Risk-Taking. Please note that there's a difference between stepping out of your comfort zone by taking a chance on love, trying a new hobby, or speaking in front of a crowd and engaging in risky behavior that may put your life or the lives of others in jeopardy. Take a moment. Take a beat. Think twice, and if something doesn't feel right, don't do it - and please help someone out if you think she or he is about to take an unhealthy risk.
March Community Service Spotlight
Originally, SADD was created to encourage teenagers to say "no" to drinking and driving. Now, they have widened their focus, becoming a peer-to-peer education, prevention, and activism organization dedicated to preventing destructive decisions related to (but not limited to) drug use, teen suicide, underage drinking, and underage drinking. SADD now stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions.
Read the SADD mission statement.
Get involved at http://www.SADD.org
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Hello, readergirlz! As I mentioned on Monday, for our first Featured Title of the month, we're mixing things up a bit (it's been a week of big rgz announcements, so why not?)! Cory Doctorow's For the Win is our first selection on the theme of Risk-taking, and on Monday, we asked what you think is risky about writing for teens. One comment that came up was the tendency of the "adult" publishing world to sideline or de-legitimize the genre.
(Side note: I mean, really?)
Here's what Booklist had to say about For the Win:
Doctorow is indispensable. It’s hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding. Set in the near future and in locations across the globe, the story involves a sweeping cast of characters making a living in such virtual-game worlds as Svartalfheim Warriors and Zombie Mecha. Many of them endure physical threats from their bosses to farm virtual gold, which is then sold to rich First World gamers. Then these brilliant teens are brought together by the mysterious Big Sister Nor, who has a plan to unionize and bring these virtual worlds—and real-world sweatshops, too—to a screeching halt. Once again Doctorow has taken denigrated youth behavior (this time, gaming) and recast it into something heroic.
Cory has asked that we share with you this excellent article originally written for Locus magazine, where he reflects on his own commitment to writing for teens, and the ways in which a risky genre - and the risky, emotion-charged behavior of teens themselves - make for an appealing literary landscape to any reader or writer. Here's an excerpt:
We couldn't agree more! We urge you to check out the complete article over at Locus. And in the meantime, we want to know - what are some of the risks you've taken (as a teen or otherwise), and in what way/s did that risky choice enable you to grow?
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
First is Holly Cupala, our Design Diva. Holly has been our rgz face, essentially. She has donated hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours to make posters, videos, banners, bookmarks, newsletters, and other visuals hot and engaging for our community. We will miss Holly so much! Her sweet, giving spirit is always infectious. We send her off with our best as she works on her third YA novel. Thank you, dearest Holly! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We love you dearly.
Liz Gallagher is also stepping away from readergirlz this month. She has been our head rgz HOST, networking and representing us in the industry. Her joy and belief in the organization have always been inspiring. We will miss her in the day-to-day dealings of rgz. Thank you, Liz! Here's to your next YA release! We love you much!
And then the ever-so-brilliant Martha Brockenbrough is stepping down as well. She has been our PR agent and general advisor for all things future. Between her gifts, talents, and networking abilities, she enabled the YA lit world and beyond to know the amazing things we were doing as a community. Thank you, Martha, for every effort, especially those press releases, TBD blog rolls, and Twitter hashtag posts. You-wow-me. Congrats on the sale of your first YA novel! We heart you!
Both Justina Chen and Dia Calhoun, my fellow co-founders, will be retreating toward their own writing as Holly, Liz, and Martha are doing. However they aren't too far away. :~)
So, your current rgz team will be: Micol Ostow, Melissa Walker, Little Willow, with me, Lorie Ann Grover as the representing co-founder. You'll see a few changes, fantastic new ideas and projects, and amazing blog posts as we continue to feature a different author every week.
No worries. Your rgz community is alive and thriving. Spread the word, and take a minute to give your love to our volunteer YA authors who are departing. Thankfully, they are in our Circle of Stars and will always, always, always be readergirlz. Thank you, ladies. We really do love you each so much!
Now, rgz: READ, REFLECT, and REACH OUT.